2011 Nissan Leaf EV: Second Drive Shows First Impression Wasn't WrongBy John O'Dell October 19, 2010
This Time We Test Top Speed and Acceleration - and Pop the Hood
FRANKLIN, Tenn. - Got another chance to drive the Nissan Leaf at an event at Nissan North America's headquarters outside of Nashville this week, and picked up a few tidbits we haven't reported before.
Our first drive was back in July, when Nissan brought the first of the U.S.-spec Leafs to California and invited us to spend a few hours with the first modern mass-produced electric vehicle. That resulted in a review, with loads of photos, that you can read here if you didn't catch it back then.
This drive didn't teach me anything new about how the car performs. It's still a delight on the highways and byways, is as quiet as a luxury car and pretty much lives up to Nissan's claim to 100 miles of range it you are driving sensibly in mixed city and highway conditions with more time at city speeds than on the freeway.
Basically, its a good regular Nissan execpt it has no tailpipe and plugs into an electric charger instead of a gas pump.
I finally got the chance to pop the hood and confirmed what I'd heard elsewhere - that the Leaf's electric motor and power controls are packaged and dressed up to look a lot like a typical transverse-mounted four-banger. There's even a 12-volt battery (for accessories).
It was done on purpose to make the under-hood view seem more famliar to customers, said Mark Perry, Nissan North America's director of product planning and advanced tech.
Here's a photo - you be the judge.
Besides that, I winkled out of Nissan the estimate that annual maintenance is expected to be less than a third of what it is for a comparatively sized ICE.
That's because theres only one recommended annual service for the Leaf and it consists principally of a battery-pack and brake check, topping off the fluids and rotating the tires. Unless something breaks there's nothing else to do.
Also learned that while Nissan says the top seed is 90, it will go faster (something I wasn't able to test in July).
On an 82-degree Tennessee afternoon, with another writer in the passenger seat, I hit 92 mph on the highway, going up a slight hill all the way. I still felt as though there was a little bit more to go, but lifted my foot at 92 because I thought I spied a state trooper's patrol car way back down the road.
Perry said he was passenger in a Leaf in Michigan a while ago when the driver hit 94 mph.
High-speed highway driving is not friendly to EV range - but the Leaf's range indicator showed 84 miles when we left the Nissan garage with a nearly full battery, and when we got back with 30.4-miles on the odo - my high speed run included - it showed we still had 50 miles left. So we dropped only 3.6 miles during the drive. Not bad.
A few other tidbits:
- Nissan (and we) call the Leaf a compact, but Perry said the EPA is rating it as a mid-size car, putting it into the same size category as the Toyota Prius.
- And, I took one over to an empty parking lot across the street from Nissan's digs for a couple of self-timed acceleration runs. Nissan hasn't released 0-60 figures yet, but we've heard estimates in the range of 8- to 9-seconds. I timed both of my runs - with a digital watch, not a professional setup - at around 7 seconds.
The usual disclaimer: I've reserved a Leaf and am going through the processes leading up to a purchase, so you'd be correct to think I have a bit of bias. My wife and I haven't yet decided whether the family finances will permit us to go ahead and buy it, but yes, I like the car. I also like to think that if Nissan had built a bad car, I'd say so and not be thinking of spendng $33k of my own money on one.
Green Car Advisor attended a Nissan-sponsored event to facilitate this report.